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One thing that's constant every tax filing season is that people who are expecting refunds file their returns early. Until this year. The number of tax returns filed, processed and refunds issued are all down dramatically this filing season. The impact of a required hold on some refunds also is affecting the average check amount, which at this point last year was $3,385 but is just $1,994 so far into 2017. Internal Revenue Service data so far this filing season, which officially started Jan. 23, shows a dramatic decrease in the number of tax returns the agency has received and... Read more →

This post was updated Feb. 13, 2018. After starting a bit late, the 2018 filing season is well underway. That means that millions of filers have already sent the Internal Revenue Service their tax returns, mostly because they're expecting a refund. The total number of refunds issued so far in 2018 is a bit smaller than those issued early in last year's filing season. Of course, this year's filing season opened a week later than it did in 2017. IRS Action Through Feb. 3, 2017 Through Feb. 2, 2018 Percentage change Tax returns received 20.181 million 18.302 million -9.3 Tax... Read more →

The IRS commissioner wasn't kidding. Weeks before the 2015 tax filing season started, John Koskinen warned both his employees and the taxpaying public that many calls for help were likely to be ignored. "For the upcoming filing season, we estimate that only about 50 percent of taxpayers who call can reach us over the phone," Koskinen said in an email to Internal Revenue Service staff back in December. Turns out he was being optimistic. Telephone tax help troubles: A new Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, examination of the interim results of the 2015 filing season found that... Read more →

No tax season ever runs without any hitches. 2015 is no different. So far this year we've seen some early season frustration with new Affordable Care Act requirements, as well as tax identity theft fraud scares that slowed processing of some returns. But all in all, despite preseason worries, the 2015 federal tax filing season is off to a booming start. Just ask the recipients of the almost 7.6 million refunds that were sent as of Jan. 30. The Internal Revenue Service says that number of refunds is almost twice what it issued by the end of January 2014. Of... Read more →

Electronic tax filing popularity continues to grow

All in all, it was a pretty uneventful tax filing season. The relatively smooth 2014 filings probably are due in large part because we taxpayers didn't have to deal with last-minute changes by Congress in tax laws. That's also probably why the number of returns that the Internal Revenue Service reported receiving a few days after the April 15 deadline, was slightly ahead of last year's filing pace. IRS numbers crunchers report that as of April 18 the agency had received more than 131 million returns. That's 0.7 percent more than at that time last year. The increase that the... Read more →

You want to e-file your tax return this year so you've gone to a paid tax professional to get the job done. You'd better double check. Not all tax preparers are EROs. ERO stands for Electronic Return Originator. Basically, these folks that the Internal Revenue Service has accepted as electronic transmitters of a filer's tax return information to the agency. An ERO generally is the first point of contact for many taxpayers who electronically file their taxes. They typically advertise their services by displaying "Authorized IRS e-file Provider" signs in their tax office windows or icons on their websites. And... Read more →

If you got a federal tax refund the last two filing seasons, chances are that your check from Uncle Sam this year was smaller. The average tax refund amount through the end of April was $2,716. That's $106 less than the average refund amount issued at around the same time last year, according to the latest Internal Refund Service 2012 tax filing season data. It's also this week's By the Numbers figure. Taxpayers who had their refunds directly deposited averaged slightly larger checks: $2,923. [1]Results for 2011 vary from those posted last year because certain results were totaled on different... Read more →

OK, a tax refund is not nearly as big as today's Mega Millions lottery payout, which has now grown to $640 million. But getting some tax cash back from Uncle Sam is a welcome annual ritual for many folks. Yes, the standard spiel now, which I've given myself over the years, is that you should adjust your withholding so you don't give the federal government a year-long interest free loan of your money. The reality is, though, that a whole lot of people like to use over-withholding as a forced savings account. And with interest rates so low on low-risk... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service usually issues weekly statistics during filing season. The details include not only how many returns the agency has received and processed, but also the numbers on electronic versus traditional mail filings, as well as the size of tax refunds, directly deposited or snail mailed, that have been issued. Those figures haven't been posted this filing season. The latest individual filing data report on the IRS site is for the week ending Dec. 31, 2011. That the IRS hasn't been forthcoming with 2012 filing season stats is not that surprising given all the trouble the agency has... Read more →

Today is a somber anniversary. But it also coincides this year with a much happier celebration, Grandparents Day. So while we remember those who died on Sept. 11, 2011, today's tax focus is on the country's older filers. There are, of course, many young grandfathers and grandmothers. But the more senior Maw-maws and Grampas get today's attention. The reason? Readily available Internal Revenue Service data breaks out taxable retirement income. Specifically, for the 2008 tax year, the latest complete tax filing info, slightly more than 15 million taxpayers reported taxable Social Security income. And that precise number of filers is... Read more →

Admit it. You like to compare yourself to your colleagues, neighbors, even family members. It's natural to want to know just how we stack up. Taxes depend on numerical data, making them ripe for ranking analysis. And the Internal Revenue Service even helps us by breaking out the information it collects. The agency's Statistics of Income Division recently released data for every U.S. ZIP code for which 250 or more returns were filed between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009. For the most part, these Form 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ tax returns were for the 2008 tax year, although... Read more →

What in the world am I doing wrong? It seems like everyone -- low-to-middle income filers, big companies and now folks earning more than $200,000 a year -- is able to avoid paying taxes. OK, so not every person is having a happy April 15. It just seems like it to those of us who tend to owe, even when we plan it that way. But data included in the latest IRS Statistics of Income (SOI) report show that higher-income folks (the agency's statutory definition is that $200,000 adjusted gross income threshold) are good at taking advantage of the tax... Read more →

Uncle Sam gives moms an early Mother's Day gift every year in the form of the child tax credit. For the 2010 fiscal year, Internal Revenue Service data shows that almost 15 percent of the individual tax refunds issued were attributable in part to the refundable portion of this popular tax break. The exact number, and this week's By the Numbers figure, is: The basic child tax credit is not hard to claim. Just list your qualifying children on your tax return and as long as your income doesn't exceed $75,000 (or $110,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return;... Read more →

For the last decade, the Internal Revenue Service has offered most taxpayers access to Free File, a way to prepare tax returns online and e-file them without charge. The services is a public-private partnership with around 20 software companies participating each year. For the 2011 filing season, taxpayers who in 2010 had adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less, regardless of filing status, can use Free File. It will be available not just through the upcoming April 18 filing deadline, but also through the Oct. 17 extended filing due date. The IRS says that the current income threshold (it's adjusted... Read more →

Today is the 119th birthday of the ice cream sundae. On April 3, 1892, in Ithaca, N.Y., John M. Scott and Chester Platt invented the first ice cream sundae. The two men originally called their creation the Cherry Sunday and tried to trademark the term "Sunday." That never happened and later the confection came to be known as the sundae. However you spell it, we love it! The traditional recipe calls for a dollop of chocolate syrup in the bottom of the dish (stemmed makes it so fancy!), followed by two dips (at least!) of vanilla ice cream, more chocolate... Read more →

My mother recently moved to the Austin area. So for the last couple of months, I've been indulging my inner interior designer, helping her furnish her new place. Since Mom's a frugal sort, we've been shopping consignment and thrift shops. As in any retail establishment, there are bargains on really nice furnishings and there's stuff the shop owners can't give away. Sorting through all these second-hand items got me thinking about the folks who used to own the property. And that prompted this week's By the Numbers figure: That's the number of 2008 tax returns (the latest tax year for... Read more →

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. This year will be the the 32nd Feb. 14th that the hubby and I have spent together, 30 of those as a married couple. So I got to wondering, especially in light of recent surveys that say marriage is no longer the relationship goal of many folks, how many taxpayers share our status. The latest complete numbers available from the IRS are for tax year 2008. That year, more than 56 million returns were submitted by married couples. The precise number, and the By the Numbers figure this week, is: That number is almost 40 percent... Read more →

Are you ready for some football? Or I guess the more appropriate question today should be have you placed your Super Bowl bets yet? The Super Bowl is the most gambled-on sporting event in the United States. Super Bowl XLV features the closest betting line -- it's been holding in the 2.5 to 3 point range -- in 29 years, according to U.S. sports fans can only place bets on the big NFL game and other athletic events legally in Nevada. That geographic limitation is why millions of gamblers for the last couple of weeks have been making illegal... Read more →

Last year, the Internal Revenue Service processed more than 142 million tax returns. Almost 70 percent of those Form 1040s (and 1040As and 1040EZs, plus attached forms and schedules) arrived at IRS centers electronically. The precise number of e-filers, according to the agency's final 2010 filing season data, was 98,740,000. That was a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year's count of taxpayers who electronically delivered their returns. The biggest jump, percentage wise, was in the number of folks who e-filed their taxes themselves. Almost 35 million of us did so, a 8.2 percent increase. But don't worry, tax pros.... Read more →

More than three grand is a nice chunk of change. That's the average refund check -- $3,303 to be precise -- that the Internal Revenue Service issued last year. Taxpayers who opted in 2010 for direct deposit of their refund money got even more. The average refund amount electronically sent to taxpayer accounts last year was $3,191. January is prime filing month for folks expecting refunds. If this forced savings account with the U.S. Treasury as your banker is the only way you can keep from spending every last cent of your paycheck, then that's better than nothing. And with... Read more →